Mass Shooting at Colo. Movie Theater, 12 People Dead
A lone gunman burst into a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., at a midnight showing of the latest Batman film, “The Dark Knight Rises,” and opened fire, killing at least 12 people and injuring at least 50, police said.
James Holmes, 24, of North Aurora, was apprehended at the scene clad in a bullet-proof vest and riot helmet.
Witnesses said Holmes crashed into the movie theater from an emergency exit door at the front of the auditorium, setting off a smoke bomb and then shooting off dozens of rounds from multiple firearms, police told ABC News.
Holmes was caught by police in the parking lot of the Century 16 Movie Theaters, nine miles outside Denver, after police began receiving dozens of 911 calls at 12:39 a.m. MT. He was carrying a gas mask, rifle, and handgun, and police believe at least one other gun was left in the movie theater. Police said the suspect mentioned having explosives stored, leading them to evacuate his entire North Aurora apartment complex and search the buildings.
Dozens of victims were taken to local hospitals, including a child as young as 6 years old.
Witnesses said that the man stalked the aisles of the theater as panicked movie-watchers in the packed theater tried to escape.
"The suspect throws tear gas in the air, and as the tear gas appears he started shooting," said Lamar Lane, who was watching the midnight showing of the movie with his brother. "It was very hard to breathe. I told my brother to take cover. It took awhile. I started seeing flashes and screaming, I just saw blood and people yelling and a quick glimpse of the guy who had a gas mask on. I was pushed out. There was chaos, we started running."
Witnesses described the confusion as the smoke bomb filled the theater and the man opened fire.
"We were maybe 20 or 30 minutes into the movie and all you hear, first you smell smoke, everybody thought it was fireworks or something like that, and then you just see people dropping and the gunshots are constant," witness Christ Jones told ABC’s Denver affiliate KMGH. "I heard at least 20 to 30 rounds within that minute or two."
A man who talked to a couple who was inside the theater told ABC News, “They got up and they started to run through the emergency exit, and that when she turned around, she said all she saw was the guy slowly making his way up the stairs and just firing at people, just picking random people,” he said. “The gunshot continued to go on and on and then after we didn’t hear anything,” the couple told the man, “we finally got up and there was people bleeding, there was people obviously may have been actually dead or anything, and we just ran up out of there, there was chaos everywhere.”
Witnesses and victims were taken to Gateway High School for questioning.
There’s about 100 FBI agents on the scene assisting with the investigation, according to the local special agent in charge. Once apprehended, the gunman told authorities that there were explosives in his North Aurora residence. Investigators rushed to the apartment complex, which was quickly evacuated and is now under lockdown. A senior official who is monitoring the situation in Washington said that early guidance based on the early snapshot of this man’s background indicated that this act does not appear to be linked to radical terrorism or anything related to Islamic terrorism.
In a statement, President Obama said, “Michelle and I are shocked and saddened by the horrific and tragic shooting in Colorado. Federal and local law enforcement are still responding, and my administration will do everything that we can to support the people of Aurora in this extraordinarily difficult time. We are committed to bringing whoever was responsible to justice, ensuring the safety of our people, and caring for those who have been wounded.”
Investigators confirmed that explosives were found. It is unclear if they were scheduled to detonate or if it was part of a stockpile.
Though police have said that they believe the shooter was acting alone, they checked all cars in the parking lot and cleared thge area near the theater.
Patrons in the theater where the shooting took place, along with those in an adjacent theater also viewing the action-packed movie, were unsure of what was happening, although bullets penetrated the adjacent theater. A man who was in the adjacent theater with his son, said that the commotion began as one of the action scenes was starting up.
"These guys came through, and they say someone’s shooting," he said. "I thought, ‘Oh, they must have heard the fireworks, you know … I had no idea. And then the alarms started to go off in the theater.’"
An explosive device was also found inside the movie house. Police are not sure whether the device, which investigators are calling a bomb, was already in place or whether it was thrown into the crowd.
Ambulances rushed to the scene as audience members fled the theater. Aurora’s police chief said that he could not elaborate on women or children injured or dead in the shooting.
Investigators are now interviewing friends and associates of the suspect to get a sense of the man’s background.
The news said that a 3 month old is in critical condition, and the youngest death, so far, Is a 6 year girl.
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